After threatening a veto, on December 27, 2020, President Trump signed the most recent COVID-19 relief package that was attached to the must-pass omnibus FY 2021 appropriations bill that would fund the federal government.
Included as COVID-19 relief were provisions to ensure that mixed-status families, those with U.S. citizen and permanent resident spouses and children of undocumented individuals, will be able to receive the $600 economic impact payments. The prior CARES Act had made an estimated 5.1 people, including 1.4 million U.S. citizen and permanent resident spouses, and 3.7 U.S. citizen children, ineligible for its economic impact payments of $1200 per adult and $500 per dependent child, if they had an undocumented spouse or parent.
The new relief package does not repeat that CARES Act mistake. It also provides that U.S. citizens and permanent residents who were excluded under the CARES Act from receiving the earlier economic impact payments will be able to claim those payments belatedly when they file their 2020 tax returns.
COVID-19 impacts the entire U.S. population, regardless of immigration status. Congress should not penalize families of undocumented workers, for whom the economic payments may delay financial disaster and real hardship while being spent in their local economies, based on whom they love.
In future COVID-19 relief measures, hopefully Congress will also recognize that undocumented immigrants are often essential workers and pay taxes with ITINs – individual taxpayer identification numbers – and should also be included in economic relief payments.